In 1945, the city of Rochester welcomed the Royals, a new member of the National Basketball League (NBL). Their debut? Nothing short of spectacular.
The team clinched the NBL title right in their inaugural season and reached the NBL finals twice before moving on. 1948 saw the Royals transitioning to the Basketball Association of America (BAA) and, subsequently, to the NBA when a merger occurred.
By 1950, the team was thriving. With Bob Davies, Bobby Wanzer, and Arnie Risen on their roster – all destined to be Hall of Famers – the Royals clinched the NBA championship in 1951. They overpowered the New York Knicks in a gripping seven-game series. That wasn’t their sole achievement. The team made it to the division finals three times between 1949 and 1954.
Relocation and the Emergence of New Stars
The mid-’50s weren’t as kind. The team saw a downturn after their championship win, registering their first-ever losing record in the 1954-55 season. However, the period introduced stars like Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes. Their camaraderie, both on and off the court, became legendary. But as the NBA expanded, so did the team’s aspirations. They moved to Cincinnati in 1957 and got Wayne Embry on board.
The Big O Era
1960 Oscar Robertson, also known as Big O, joined the team. His addition led the Royals to the division finals in back-to-back years. However, the mighty Boston Celtics halted their progress on both occasions.
Despite having Jerry Lucas, another future Hall of Famer, the team’s postseason ventures in the ’60s remained limited.
From Royals to Kings
Bob Cousy took the coaching reins from 1969 to 1973. But, struggling to maintain their dominance, the Royals found new ownership and, in 1972, moved to Kansas City, rebranding as the Kings. Initially, they split their home games between Kansas City and Omaha, Nebraska.
With Nate Tiny Archibald showcasing his skills, the team saw sporadic success, including an unexpected 1981 conference finals appearance. A change was on the horizon, though. In 1983, a sale led to the franchise relocating to Sacramento in 1985.
Tough Times and the Sacramento Stint
The move to Sacramento was challenging. The Kings posted a losing record for 13 straight years. But the ’90s introduced a glimmer of hope in the form of all-star shooting guard Mitch Richmond.
The turnaround began in 1998. The Kings entered an eight-year streak of postseason appearances, peaking in 2001-02. Chris Webber and Peja Stojakovic propelled the team to the Western Conference finals, where they narrowly lost to the Los Angeles Lakers. Post-2007, the team struggled, facing more off-court challenges than on-court successes.
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